Former Philadelphia Eagles player Danny Watkins is back to what he was doing before his brief, lucrative experiment in playing football — fighting fires.
Watkins is a fireman in Dallas three years after getting picked in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Emily Kaplan of MMQB reports.
Watkins has one of the strangest career arcs of any player in the NFL.
He didn’t start playing until he was 22, when he was discovered at Butte Community College in California and convinced to play offensive line. He was a natural, and transferred to Baylor two years later. At age 26, he was drafted. Now, at age 30, he’s doing the job he wanted to do all along.
When Watkins was drafted his firefighting background was framed as a heartwarming storyline. Yahoo wrote about his lifelong dream to be a firefighter at the time:
At 16, he volunteered at the local fire department for school credit, mainly to get out of class. He stuck with it, and at 18 graduated to the paid-on-call program to become a full-time firefighter. At 22, his captain suggested Watkins enroll in a course in fire science at Butte Community College in California, where the new 6-foot-4, 290-pound kid on campus couldn’t hide from the football coaches for long.
But as Watkins struggled to adapt to the NFL, his interest in firefighting took on a life of its own. At some point it became clear that he wasn’t over being a fireman.
He bought himself a fire truck and took teammate Jason Kelce for a ride:
In the most controversial and confusing story, he was photographed apparently fighting fires with the Philadelphia Fire Department in 2012, a few days after a game. He said it was just a charity appearance, but it made the Eagles think he was more interested in firefighting than football. From Kaplan:
As far as the Eagles organisation was concerned, they finally had an explanation. This was why their first-round pick was giving them the kind of measly performance they could get from a street free agent. He wasn’t putting in the time, not pulling his weight during the week. Watkins denies it, but those within the organisation were certain what they had found: Danny Watkins was moonlighting as a firefighter.
Watkins played two disappointing seasons for the Eagles before being cut in 2013. He played one more season for the Dolphins, but barely saw the field. After that he quit football, moved to Texas, and returned to the firehouse. In all, he earned more than $US6 million of his $US7.9 million rookie contract.
In 2011 he told CSN Philadelphia, “I wouldn’t see myself anywhere else but in a fire station. I couldn’t sit in a cubicle all day. I’d probably push it over and dive out the window at some point. I really can’t see myself doing anything else but this after football.”
Ultimately football was a brief exception in Watkins’ professional trajectory.
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